Skipper Matty James will return to the Sheffield Eagles squad this weekend, as director of rugby Mark Aston picks from arguably his strongest hand yet for the visit of Swinton Lions.
After a season dominated by injury problems, the Eagles welcome back their influential skipper alongside Paddy Burns, Simon Brown and Greg Burns.
Aston is also set to get the green light over the availability of Adam Swift from St Helens, whilst the Eagles are also expected to include dual-registration regulars Matty Costello, Jake Spedding and Jack Ashworth in a competitive looking squad.
The problem, albeit a welcome one for Aston, is picking his 17, after the Eagles supremo admitted he has been impressed with their recent showings, which included victory over Barrow without his returning quartet.
“Matty James will be available again this weekend and we also have good news on Paddy Burns and Greg Burns,” Aston confirmed.
“We have a few more hands on deck which is pleasing. Simon Brown should be about right as well, so there’s four people there that will certainly add quality to the squad.
“I think this is the strongest squad we have had yet. I don’t think we’ll have Matty Lees from Saints, but we will probably pick up Adam Swift so that’s not a bad addition either. The form of the lads over the last couple of weeks, has been very good. They are in control, there might be a couple of subtle changes, especially with the likes of Matty (James) looking to get back in. It is important for us to have that competition. It is a team game and we need at least 13-14 players playing well week in, week out. We have had that over the last couple of weeks so it is nice position to be in for a change.”
Earlier in the season the re-integration of James would have been a formality, with the Eagles often struggling without the ex-Featherstone ace.
But Aston’s forwards have found their feet in recent weeks, leaving the experienced coach a tough call on team selection.
“Without Matty James, the big fellas have been great in the last two games,” he continued.
“The likes of Shaun Pick, Jon Magrin, Mark Offerdahl and Josh Toole - they have been excellent. It is credit to them that they will keep Matty on the bench, that’s how it goes, there is no guarantee of him getting straight back into the team.”